The fitness industry is probably the biggest it’s ever been and I never thought that I’d ever step foot in it. In the back of mind I always pictured fitness models as beautiful, perfectly sculpted women with curves in all the right places. Not surprisingly, when I did show up on the scene, I instantly compared my body to those of the beautiful women gracing the covers of magazines. Then there were the fitness models of Instagram, the ones that have a six pack 364 days a years, I say that because I have to assume they allow themselves at least one cheat meal a year? How is a woman like myself, with a 32A cup, size 0, 115 pound figure even come close to having what resembled a woman’s figure. I don’t.

The first part of any journey, is sort of an acceptance of what your body is. I saved about 10 pictures of what I wanted my body to look like, and in each scenario, it all ended with me saying, “well, I’m gonna need a boob job”. For some reason I wasn’t gonna be happy with my body, until I had a pair of c cup, saline implants, inserted under the muscle, with the incision through the belly button. It didn’t matter that I had put in countless hours in the gym, that I had cut most of my carbs, that I was probably consuming about 1200 calories a day, and I looked more unhealthy than I did healthy. I thought I understood what my body was, and to a certain extent I did, but instead of “accepting it”, I just made plans to change it.

The second part of my journey was fighting this voice in my head that said I wasn’t good enough. The reasons why I wasn’t good enough? Boobs, I didn’t have boobs, that comes up a lot, a round butt, I have a small frame, so I had a small bottom, the beautiful face, compared to other models, I just had a plain face. The list could go on really, but I was constantly watching these unrealistic images, and it placed a burden in my soul. It’s easy to say that you love your body, which is what I said, because it was the self love movement, I had to say and share that. Of course the beautiful models were talking self love, if I had that body, I’d be all about self love too!

It wasn’t until I came across a friends page, she was a rockstar in modeling, she had a few features in fitness magazines, and I of course went through all these amazing pictures she had. The majority of them had this water stamp in the lower right hand corner, with a JP. My friend, who at the time was just a girl I knew  about through a mutual friend, was posting about this event, and how she learned to get into magazines from something called FITposium. It peaked my interest, and I immediately clicked on it, I didn’t really know what exactly it was. I knew it was a conference, but what was it about? I clicked back and went to another link, the photographer, James Patrick. He had a plethora of images, beautiful women, magazine covers, features, holy cow this guy was the man! I messaged my friend and I had to know what all this was, who the photographer was, what he charged, I mean I asked every question I could.

Once I devoured all this information, I pondered whether I should email or message this guy. You have to remember, I had this idea of what a fitness model was, and I saw the kind of girls he worked with, there was no way he was even gonna give me the time of day. I actually got up the courage to message him, I’m pretty sure I asked him about FITposium, and pricing, to book a shoot with him, but I honestly could not tell you what I actually wrote. Surprisingly, he got back to me faster than what I thought, and told me about the upcoming 2016 conference, and that I should really think about going. I honestly was shaking, a good kind of shaking, I was nervous, and excited and all the emotions. But, at the time we just didn’t have the funds to travel out for the conference. I was bummed, I really thought this was my opportunity to do something with a crazy dream. After following James for a hot second, I noticed he had a podcast, The ProExposure, I literally had to download the PodCast app, and figure out how to search the show. Everything I learned from this, was priceless, I literally had to keep checking to make sure I wasn’t being charged to listen because who just gives out all this information for free?

The turning point for me, was booking my first shoot with James. He posted on his Instagram that he was doing shoots for 3 specific days in April, and that he was discounting them. I heard him lecture before about not taking advantage of what he offers, and yet complaining about the pricing of his services. So, you can bet I booked him, sent a check, and was so excited to get that confirmation. So much of my mindset changed after that shoot, for once, I had this gleam of hope that I could be like the women in the magazines.

FITposium, that was my next step, after my photoshoot, I was determined to get back to Arizona and attend the 2017 conference. I will say we had to save up for our tickets, and I had James texting me, “why didn’t you get your tickets yet!” I look back and we were struggling, we had so many excuses to say, we can’t afford it, but we used that excuse the year before and it got us no where. As Gary Vee says, “F*** the excuses”, we went for it, we invested in ourselves and in our future. The 6 months leading up to FITposium were the most life changing days of our lives, and I’m not being corny, they really were! In those 6 months, just listening to the ProExposure, I learned how to write pitches, and actually hit the send button, how to treat others when at a shoot and in general, being a better version of myself.

When it came time to make the long drive to FITposium, I already had a wealth of knowledge, and I was actually confident. Bottom line, I would not be here, laying in bed at 1 in the morning, writing about this journey of mine, if it weren’t for taking a chance on a conference in Arizona. Sure, there were moments that lead me to it, my friends amazing posts that caught my eye, James and his photography skills, the ProExposure. But, the experience, and the sights and the wealth of knowledge that I consumed over one weekend, was priceless. My only regret, is that I didn’t fight past my excuses the previous year.

As of now, my 2018 conference tickets are purchased, and I’m already counting down the days. Being cast for projects, are definitely a highlight and we couldn’t be more grateful, but how it’s changed me as a person is what’s amazing. For once in my life, I don’t feel the need to have a boob job in order to feel relevant. I don’t look at Instagram models and strive to be like them. I don’t starve myself and cut carbs to have a six pack 364 days out of the year. I do however, love the occasional donut, (fun fact, my friend actually owns a donut shop) when my boss offers pastries to test, (another fun fact, I work in a bakery) I take it! I still have those moments where I binge eat, but, it’s that feeling of not beating myself up after wards is how I deal with it. I live my life, and I know that with or without boobs, if I want to be successful, it’s up to me, I have to put in the work, the time and the energy.

One thing that resonated with me that James talks about, is, “and so what?” This one question always sticks with me, because it forces you to be different. In a world where we’re all trying to be unique, sometimes it’s easy to fall victim of being another follower.

Author: Lizzie Dollinger

Editor: Taylor Salewske